Terraforming Dubai's Next Artificial Island City

Illustration for article titled Terraforming Dubais Next Artificial Island City

Click to viewThis gleaming hunk of urban development is about to rise on an artificial, perfectly square island off the coast of Dubai. Engineers in the coastal country are already adept at building islands — Dubai possesses three artificial island developments, including one made of house-sized islets that form the shape of all the continents of the world. With this new development, architect Rem Koolhaas will design an entire city that reflects his futurist philosophy about the "generic city." That glowing ball you see will be a city unto itself. See inside it below.

Illustration for article titled Terraforming Dubais Next Artificial Island City

Those tubes are escalators connecting different living areas to each other.

Koolhaas says he's using this 6.5-mile square mini-city to launch a critique of generic cities filled with acres of sameness. He wants this city to look like a cross between the supergeneric urban spaces of New York and the superfantastical, weirdly-shaped buildings for which Koohaas is known. According to the New York Times:

The core of the development would be the island, which would be divided into 25 identical blocks. Neat rows of towers — some tall and slender, others short and squat, depending on the zoning — line the blocks, as if a fragment of Manhattan had been removed with a scalpel and reinserted in the Middle East.

The monotony is broken by mixed-use structures whose immense scale and formal energy draw on mythic examples from architectural history. A spiraling 82-story tower might have been inspired by the minaret of the ninth-century Great Mosque of Samarra in Iraq; a gargantuan 44-story sphere brings to mind the symbolic forms of the 18th-century architect Étienne-Louis Boullée.


It also brings to mind a gated community writ large. These gleaming towers on their isolated island have only a few tiny bridges to the outside world. People could live their entire lives here, keeping all the poverty-stricken masses at bay. As the Times architecture critic Nicolai Oroussouff says, "Think of George A. Romero's 2005 flick, "Land of the Dead," with its menacing corporate masters peering down on a world of faceless zombies." We are.

City on the Gulf [NYT]

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Annalee Newitz

@Klebert: Yeah, I'm not sure what the source is of the UAE-bashing. I'm certain that most people don't know the difference between the UAE and Iran.